This is the season for mountain vegetables and wild edible plants.

Do you know your Japanese mountain vegetables? Local edible plants include: fukinoto, tsukushi, taranome, kogomi, koshiabura, zenmai, warabi, udo, fuki, takenoko, and wasabi. If you live in the city, you’re unlikely to recognize these plants or even know their names. But it’s one of the joys of country life to know these wild plants.

Unlike garden or farm vegetables, these wild plants are a gift from nature. These days, there aren’t many foods that haven’t been processed in some way by human beings. So, I appreciate the sometimes bitter taste of these wild plants. It’s a pleasant bitter taste that tells of the coming of spring following a long winter in the harsh north country.

According to my English dictionary, the Japanese word, “sansai,” means “mountain + vegetables,” but that’s a direct and inadequate translation. The proper nuance is lost. “Wild mountain vegetables” might be a little better. But I’d prefer to say, “Blessed nature’s wild mountain vegetables.”

This year again the master of my neighborhood Izakaya invited my parents over for tempura of “Blessed nature’s wild mountain vegetables.” Thank you very much! I appreciate both Nature’s gifts and human kindness.